Here is a fishing show I might actually watch.
On Sunday, the Tom Brokaw-hosted series “Pirates of the Flats” debuts on ESPN2 at 8 a.m. Oklahoma time
Filmed in the Bahamas, the show features Brokaw, who also narrates. The news anchor goes on a weeklong catch-and-release bonefishing expedition, a project in partnership with the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.
The casters on the show with Brokaw include actor Michael Keaton, fly-fishing icon Lefty Kreh, author Thomas McGuane, mountaineer and outdoor industry leader Yvon Chouinard and photographer R. Valentine Atkinson.
Check out the trailer posted on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVVA9yT07G0
United Airlines recently made the decision to change a policy that would have banned antlers from being allowed onto any flight.
According to the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, outdoorsmen from coast to coast were enraged when became known United Airlines had quietly initiated a policy preventing passengers from carrying on or checking antlers or animal horns of any kind.
After receiving thousands of complaints from sportsmen, who were informed by the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance through Bowsite.com, and from other concerned organizations, United Airlines has reconsidered this policy. In a message sent to the USSA and other organizations, United stated:
“As you have recently contacted us, I wanted you to be the first to know that we have heard our customers’ feedback about our Antler and Animal Horn policy, and are responding. Soon we will begin accepting Antlers and Animal Horns as checked baggage again.
“As many of you may recall or have seen on our Web site, in October 2008 we stopped accepting Antlers and Animal Horns because of the damage the tips caused to the cargo section of the aircraft and to the luggage belonging to our other guests.
“We will soon publish new requirements – and ones we previously did not have – about packaging and cleaning Antlers and Animal Horns to ensure their safe, clean transport. These travel requirements will also provide information on the size of Antlers and Animal Horns we can accept based on the type of aircraft being flown (i.e., traditional jet vs. a regional jet) and the special handling fee, which we previously had in place and is similar to other items that require special care.”
The second half of duck season has opened with a bang. (Bad pun, I know).
Saturday was the opener for the second half of duck season in zones one and two and it produced some of the best hunting of the year.
There has been a major flight of birds and many ducks and geese were at Fort Cobb and Canton over the weekend, according to my avid duck hunting buddy, Roy Loris, who hunted both locations.
“It’s definitely picked up,” said Josh Richardson, migratory bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We’ve have some pretty good cold fronts and its getting some good, fresh birds moving down.”
A decent number of birds moved into the state early in the season and stayed, but they had gotten pretty gun-shy, Richardson said. And most of them were gadwalls, widgeons and pintails, he said.
“The last couple of cold fronts have finally pushed some good numbers of mallards down to us,” Richardson said.
While the western half the state seemed to have more birds the first half of the season, the duck hunting now is pretty good throughout the state with birds from border to border, Richardson said.
‘It’s spread fairly evenly right now,” he said.
Duck hunters should remember that if they have hold an annual hunting license, it will need to be renewed by Jan. 1. Their HIP and waterfowl stamps will be good throughout the hunting season.
To see the state’s current waterfowl report, click on www.wildlifedepartment.com/wf_count.htm
Sportsmen could be losing some access on one public hunting area in eastern Oklahoma but are gaining more than 4,000 more acres of public land on another in western Oklahoma.
First the good news. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation closed a land deal Thursday where the agency acquired 4,700 acres to expand the Packsaddle Wildlife Management Area.
The price tag was $4 million and most of it was paid for through the $3.75 million that the Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., gave the department in mitigation for loss of prairie chicken habitat as the result of its new wind farm. Legacy permit funds also were used in the purchase.
“We are going to work on improving it for lesser prairie chicken habitat,” said Alan Peoples, chief of the wildlife division for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We don’t know if there are leks on it or not. We think there probably are, but we are not for sure. There are prairie chickens in the vicinity.”
Even though the land primarily was bought to try to keep the lesser prairie chickens from disappearing, it also will provide deer, turkey and quail hunting opportunities, Peoples said.
The new area, which adjoins Packsaddle on the east, will not be open for public hunting until the state Wildlife Department can post signs and print maps marking the boundaries.
Now for the bad news, or possible bad news. The Army National Guard is wanting use of the Cherokee Wildlife Management Area near Camp Gruber for more training exercises.
State wildlife officials are currently in discussions with the Army National Guard about future public hunting access on the 31,00-acre wildlife management area in Cherokee County that borders Muskogee County.
“We don’t know what it means yet,” said Richard Hatcher, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “We have had one meeting with them. Whatever the outcome, there will still be hunting on Cherokee. We just don’t know what it’s going to look like.”
Hatcher said the deed on Cherokee is a “war assets” deed and the Army National Guard is entitled to the land. But most of the training by the Army National Guard would be done in the summer. As a result, Hatcher said he believed there will be very little change in public hunting opportunities on the Cherokee Wildlife Management Area when the discussions with the Army National Guard have ended.
Paul Sund, communications director for Gov. Brad Henry, issued the following statement when asked by The Oklahoman about the issue.
“Gov. Henry is working to broker an agreement that will protect the rights of hunters and fishermen and address the long-term future of Camp Gruber and the needs of the servicemen and women who use the facility for military training. Discussions have been productive, and the governor is hopeful a consensus can be reached.”
Deer gun season ended Sunday but hunters may get a longer rifle season in the future.
State wildlife officials are considering a longer deer rifle season than the current 16 days of hunting. They are not officially advocating a longer gun season yet, but it appears they are laying the groundwork to do so in the near future.
The state Wildlife Department is holding town hall meetings across the state this week and one of the topics being raised by state wildlife officials is the possibility of a longer deer gun season.
Richard Hatcher, director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said state wildlife officials are not ready to seek a longer gun season yet, but they are trying to do determine how much support there would be for one.
Most hunters favor a longer deer gun season, but some fear it would cause lease prices to increase. No question there is enough deer in Oklahoma to justify a longer season.
“We are not running out of deer,” Hatcher said.
Another topic of discussion during the town hall meetings is allowing all hunters to use crossbows. Presently, only hunters age 60 and above or with a physical disability may legally hunt with a crossbow in Oklahoma.
Hatcher said he expects there will be legislation introduced this year to legalize crossbow hunting for all.
“We don’t care,” Hatcher said of the state Wildlife Department’s position on the issue. “It wouldn’t hurt anything and it might provide some more opportunities.”
Expect opposition from some bowhunters who favor only the traditional means of bowhunting.
State wildlife officials also are considering ending its fish stocking program for private ponds. Commercial fish farmers have objected to the state Wildlife Department providing this service for free as they consider it unfair competition.
Ending the program would provide more money to stock fish in public lakes, Hatcher said.
Town hall meetings are scheduled tonight (Dec. 9) in Muskogee (public library) and Clinton (senior citizens center) and on Friday in Oklahoma City at state Wildlife Department headquarters, 1801 N. Lincoln.
The town hall meetings are open topic and less formal than the public hearings on proposed rule changes.
The official public hearings on next year’s rule changes that are being proposed by the state Wildlife Department are scheduled next month.
The most controversial regulation changes on the list are the restrictions on paddlefishing in northeastern Oklahoma.
State wildlife commissioners passed emergency rules earlier this year to limit the fishing for paddlefish to catch and release only on two days of the week, Friday and Monday.
Commissioners also voted to make snagging for paddlefish illegal in Spring River above Grand Lake to protect it as a spawning ground.
Those rules, however, must be made permanent through the public hearing process. To see a complete list of proposed rule changes go to www.wildlifedepartment.com. A link also is provided to leave a comment on any proposal.
The weather may be cold, but that doesn’t mean the fishing can’t be hot.
Chris Whitworth of Oklahoma City landed this 31-pound striper Saturday on the Red River while fishing with guide Steve Barnes.
“We were actually fishing for big blue cats but, hey, stripers eat shad too,” Barnes said. “We were using Mustad circle hooks so the fish was released unharmed.”
Funny thing. The last time I went striper fishing in the winter on the Red River I caught a big blue cat, 45-pounds. I guess something is always biting on the Red.
To learn more about blue cat and striper fishing on Texoma and the Red River with Barnes, visit http://www.txfishingguide.com/
Archery in the Schools continues to expand in Oklahoma.
Now in its fifth year in Oklahoma, Archery in the Schools is a national program that began in Kentucky where international-style archery is taught in physical education classes from fourth to 12th grades.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation administers the program and because of its growth in state schools, just hired a full-time Archery in the Schools coordinator.
Justin Marschall, who taught elementary school science in Yukon, began his new job just eight days ago.
Each spring, there is a statewide “Archery in the Schools” tournament where the winners advance to the national competition. In May, Oklahoma had its first two national champions in Archery in the Schools – Kolt Perkins of Zaneis Elementary in Wilson and Merideth Noland of Chickasha.
In Oklahoma, 183 school districts are now teaching archery through the program. Most of the schools that participate are rural schools where there is a strong tradition of hunting and the outdoors.
But more suburban schools are getting involved, such as Moore. Earlier this month, Houchin Elementary in Moore held its second annual archery meet for the three elementary schools in Moore that are teaching archery.
“We would like to see the other 18 elementary schools (in Moore) adopt this program,” said Edgar Fowkles, the physical education instructor at Houchin.
Fowkles raves about Archery in the Schools, saying it has raised the self-esteem of students. His students now look forward to physical education classes and there are fewer absences.
Student grades also have improved, since no one gets to participate in archery if they are making failing grades or behind in school work, he said.
Houchin holds an archery meet to help raise funds to expand the program to second and third graders.
Below are the results of this year’s Houchin Archery in the Schools meet.
Fourth Grade Boys: 1, Ian McKenzie; 2, Spencer Vasquez; 3, Riley Mize.
Fourth Grade Girls: 1, Baylee Brown; 2, Sheridan Stafford; 3, Jaydon Patchin.
Fifth Grade Boys: 1, Jason Bates; 2, Colby Evans; 3, Dayne Taylor and Dustin Ryker.
Fifth Grade Girls: 1, Jennifer Starwalt; 2, Kayci Grigsby; 3, Jane Park.
Sixth Grade Boys: 1, Tayler Brewer; 2, Logan Holt; 3, Cory Munds.
Sixth Grade Girls: 1, Sarah Starwalt; 2, Morgan Weidenmaier; 3, Ashley Gomez.
To learn more about Archery in the Schools, call Marschall at 522-1857.
Reports from the opening week of pheasant season in the Panhandle are that the hunting is outstanding.
Both Paul McElvany of Edmond and Roy Loris of Oklahoma City were just two of the hundreds of hunters who traveled to Texas County for the opening of pheasant season.
Both reported that the birds were plentiful and the hunting remarkable. Paul, 78, has hunted pheasants with his son, Rocky, for 40 consecutive years.
Roy also was hunting with his son, Johnathon, who drove all the way from Texarkana to hunt pheasants with his dad near Guymon. “The birds weren’t holding very good but there were a lot of them,” Roy said. “They were running like coyotes had been after them.”
Both Roy and Johnathon both limited out (three birds) on Saturday by 11 a.m.
The cottontails also were plentiful and Johnathon bagged his limit of 10 in just 28 minutes.
“There were just rabbits running all over the place,” Roy said. “You kicked them up every 30 feet.”
Pheasant season continues through Jan. 31. And rabbit season is open through March 15.
I swear I saw a dead mountain lion a couple of weeks ago.
I was driving back from the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve on the road from Pawhuska to Ponca City and it was on the other side of the highway.
Of course, I was going at least 60 mph when I passed it so I can’t be certain. Maybe it was a big bobcat , but it sure looked like a cougar that coyotes had already started working on when I whizzed by.
For a second, I thought about turning around to go back and take a look, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I saw a dead one on the Indian Nations Turnpike several years ago.
But when visiting with Micah Holmes at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation about it, he said the agency would have sent out a biologist if it really had been a dead mountain lion.
If being the operative word. State wildlife officials are always skeptical about mountain lion sightings.
They acknowledge mountain lions are in Oklahoma, or traveling through Oklahoma, but not nearly as many as people claim to see.
State agriculture officials are often called about mountains lions killing livestock, but only once have they been able to confirm that a mountain lion was indeed the culprit.
It used to be illegal to shoot a mountain lion. Two years ago it became lawful to kill a mountain lion in Oklahoma, but the carcass must be brought to the state Wildlife Department within 24 hours so biologists can collect data.
Two years later and no one has killed a mountain lion yet. There hasn’t been one dead cougar checked in to the state Wildlife Department. So I guess state wildlife officials have reason to be skeptical. But if anyone else saw that mountain lion carcass along the highway, please give me a call.
My friends at Blue Heron Communications in Norman have shared with me some Christmas gift ideas for the outdoorsman.
Of course, their Christmas list includes all items from their clients.
But hey, Blue Heron represents some of the best outdoor brands in the business.
So I thought I would share it. Somebody just might find the perfect gift on it.
Coleman Elite Series Tents
With one holiday gift any family can make lasting memories without breaking the bank or sacrificing comfort with Elite Series Tents from Coleman (Coleman.com). Multiple models make up the Elite Series line with configurations and designs to suit larger camping groups. Whether the event calls for the eight-person Elite Evanston 8 or the six-person Elite Weathermaster Screened Tent, these tents are designed for years of memory making and quiet, restful nights. Pair this tent with a stay at a national park and this gift will have the entire family outdoors. (800-835-3278, $189.99 – $219.99)
Shakespeare Catch More Fish Combo
Give the gift of successful fishing to the young angler in your life this holiday season with the Shakespeare Catch More Fish Combo (Shakespeare-Fishing.com). Using high-quality components, this combo delivers performance and value with savings up to $25 by including the rod, reel, line, bait and tackle all in one package – everything needed to catch more fish. Plus, anglers get the same quality that comes with the Shakespeare, Berkley, and Stren names. (800-334-9105, $29.99 – $39.99)
Don’t forget that annual fishing licenses typically expire on December 31, 2009. Give the angler in your life (and yourself) the gift of fun and relaxation for the next year with a 2010 fishing license.
Smith & Wesson M&P15-22
This holiday season, shooters everywhere are lining up for the new M&P15-22 from Smith & Wesson (Smith-Wesson.com). Completely designed as a dedicated .22LR platform, the M&P15-22 offers shooters an affordable firearm that’s inexpensive to operate and suitable for the entire family – both experienced and inexperienced shooters alike. The M&P15-22 is lighter than a standard M&P15 to accommodate shooters of all statures while still offering the same distinctive looks and operating features of a traditional AR-style rifle. Ideal for training, small game hunting or recreational shooting, the M&P15-22 sets the benchmark for blending pinpoint accuracy and accessible pricing. (800-331-0852,$499 MSRP)
Hobie Pro Angler
An easy-to-use, stable alternative to traditional fishing boats, the Pro Angler from Hobie (HobieKayaks.com) is a no-gas-required, 100 percent fishing machine. Powered by Hobie’s patented MirageDrive™, which employs dual underwater, penguin-type flippers that propel the boat through the water, there’s plenty of room on board for up to eight fishing rods and 13 Plano tackle boxes. No launch ramp? No problem. The Pro Angler allows anglers to access the honey holes that power craft can’t. Says legendary professional bass angler Hank Parker, “The Pro Angler is unbelievably stable and still small enough to access your favorite shallow-water areas.” (800-HOBIE49, $2,399)
Coleman 3AAA LED Multi-Color Flashlight
Give the gift that lets the outdoor enthusiast upgrade their drawer full of underpowered and antiquated flashlights with the 3AAA LED Multi-Color Flashlight from Coleman (Coleman.com). This flashlight tips the scale at a mere 4.8 ounces but produces 65 lumens of night-shattering light through the latest in LED technology. This weather-resistant flashlight also delivers the versatility of white light for general purposes, red light for enhanced night vision and blue light for easy game trailing. Packaged with 3 AAA batteries and featuring run times up to 50 hours, the Coleman 3AAA LED Multi-Color Flashlight is destined to spend time outdoors – not in a drawer. (800-835-3278, $29.99)
Berkley TEC Turboglide
Whether it’s slicing the holiday ham or filleting fish for next summer’s cookout, nothing makes an ideal Christmas gift for an outdoor enthusiast like the Berkley TEC Turboglide Lithium-Ion Cordless Fillet knife (Berkley-Fishing.com). This cordless fillet knife features an industry first, Lithium-ion battery pack that charges in half the time of competitive cordless fillet knives while weighing 40 percent less. Advanced engineering prevents accidental blade release; directs heat away from hands and dampens vibration. (800-237-5539, $99.99)
Smith & Wesson Night Guard Series
Whether this gift is given for recreational shooting or simply peace of mind, the new Night Guard series of revolvers from Smith & Wesson (Smith-Wesson.com) answers the call with versatility, size and performance not found in other lines of compact handguns. Consisting of eight models in three different frame sizes and seven caliber choices, the Night Guard series sports an unassuming, business-like appearance with a host of high-tech features. Built on an ultra-lightweight Scandium Alloy frame for a lifetime of reliability and reduced weight, yet still strong enough to handle everything from .38 Special to .44 Magnum, this new wrinkle on a classic sidearm is designed to perform in any situation. (800-331-0852, $995 – $1,153)